For years, we have been closing Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with the Lord’s Prayer, as do many other groups. We sometimes have Jewish people attending, and I had been taught this was a universal prayer. Lately, by request, we have begun to consider closing with something else. What do you think?
It’s true that the Lord’s Prayer fits equally across all the Abrahamic traditions. It is similar in many ways to prayers that were popular among pious Jews in Roman times, including the kaddish prayer, and reflects traditional Jewish values. You may wish to read more on this in the relevant article in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
Nevertheless, Jews do not say this prayer. If a Jew attends an AA meeting where it is recited, he does not have to leave, but he should not recite it along with them. The reason is easy to understand: Its source is what is called “The New Testament.” The existence of the Jewish people is predicated on an eternal pact G‑d made with Abraham, and later with his descendants at Mount Sinai. A “New Testament” implies that this pact was somehow annulled. By reciting a prayer from a context that undermines the existential foundation of his people, a Jew feels that he is surrendering his unique identity to the ideology of the majority culture. It seems to me that this runs contrary to the aims and goals of AA, which looks to strengthen each member’s identity as a unique individual, with his own meaning and purpose in life.
Many AA groups and other 12-step societies have a practice of saying the 23rd Psalm, “The L‑rd is my shepherd . . .” The Psalms are revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims, and this one in particular relates closely to the theme of AA.
Please let me know if this helps,
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman